PESHAWAR: The expansion work of The Bacha Khan International Airport (BKIA) in Peshawar is completed and the door to the upgraded facility is likely to open soon for passengers.
The expansion of BKIA was decided after the incident when a PIA flight returning from Riyadh came under a gun attack from militants in the densely populated areas around the airport.
They had opened fire at the plane just as it came in for landing at the facility and as a result, a woman was killed while two crew members sustained bullet wounds. Since then night operations at the airport was suspended.
A Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) official said that even without night operations, the facility was already overburdened since it had not been expanded for decades. Moreover, many airlines moved their international flights to daytime slots, increasing the traffic in the day and making it difficult for authorities to manage the load.
“An international airline always wishes to operate according to their own schedule and this is what makes it difficult for us since we operate three international flights between 7am and 9am,” a senior CAA official informed.
CAA at BKIA operates over 35 flights, including four domestic, on a daily basis where passengers from across KP and the federally administered tribal areas and the provincially administered tribal areas fly in or out.
The PKR 2 billion expansion work was started after the June 2014 incident, is almost complete and it is expected to inaugurate the upgraded facility on 23rd March.
As the province’s lone international facility, the federal government decided to expand the facility in 2015, adding that construction on both the domestic and international lounges. BKIA is among the oldest airstrips in the country after the then British empire had set up a field in Peshawar, serving as a refueling spot.
After the Partition, it was shared by the CAA and the air force who used it as their primary airfield in the northwestern part of the country.
So much so that it became a common sight in passenger planes for enthusiastic passengers to unbuckle their seatbelts and rush to the windows to catch a glimpse of fighter jets who stood in a part of the airport through which their planes taxied through, either immediately after landing or just before taking off.
BKIA gained international status in 1965. The first extension in facilities it got was in 1986 to handle wide-body aircraft. In 2008, it was decided that the airport needed to be expanded further.